Attractions of South Africa
After searching through piles of glossy tourist brochures of exotic places around the world you are now considering a trip to South Africa. Good decision! There are many tours of South Africa available with reputable companies or you can plan your own trip. Either way you are in for a treat. Here a few reasons why you should visit South Africa.
With a coast line stretching 2,800 km you can be sure that there are plenty of great beaches. Some are remote and some are tourist hotspots. Take your pick!
Table Mountain dominates the Cape Town skyline. It is 1,086 metres high and has a ‘table-top’ that is 3 km wide.
Fancy taking a golfing holiday? Look no further. An abundance of golf courses and great weather make for great golfing trips and there are many tour companies offering such tours.
If you only wanted one reason to visit South Africa then my answer to you would be Kruger National Park! Imagine a game reserve the size of Israel where the Big 5 and many other creatures roam free. Spend a few days in Kruger National Park doing a self-drive trip - you won't regret it. Kruger National Park is one of the most popular of South Africa's tourist places.
There are a number of places in SA where you can see the Big 5 mammals. From luxury safaris on private reserves to self-drive trips in Kruger National Park and other places there is a chance for all to see these legendary creatures and many others as well.
The Kimberley Big Hole is an amazing site. 50,000 miners turned a hill into a 240 metre hole in search of diamonds. The hole has a surface area of 17 hectares. The depth of the Big Hole was reduced to 215 metres by filling it in and it has accumulated about 40 metres of water over the years. This still leaves a hole that is visible to a depth of 175 metres from the surface.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is over 3.6 million hectares in size and straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana. The park is dry and hot with most of it falling in the Kalahari Desert area. Despite this there is abundant wildlife with some of the highlights being the black-maned Lions, Cheetah, Gemsbok and Springbok.
If luxury train travel is your style then you need to try the iconic Blue Train or the legendary trips run by Rovos Rail. Either way you are in for a special treat as these offer what is probably the most luxurious way to explore the country.
Shark cage diving offers a chance for you to get up close to sharks without the risk of being mistaken for a tasty snack by one of the oceans most feared and fascinating creatures – the Great White Shark. The waters off the Western Cape are best to find a Great White Shark but other species may be seen at other locations along the coast. Diving at Aliwal Shoal and Park Rynie, on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, is a great way to get close to a variety of sharks.
The weather is one of the main attractions and many visitors are attracted to the year-round sunshine. Summers are hot and winters are generally mild. In most areas the main rains come in spring and summer. The Cape has winter rainfall. At times there is some snow in the higher areas.
Although some facilities offer exclusive accommodation and services at exclusive prices South Africa is generally not an expensive country to visit. It is particularly affordable and attractive to visitors from Europe and the USA as the exchange rates are currently very much in their favour.
South Africa has a tremendous variety of birdlife with over 850 species having been recorded. We are blessed with the number and quality of field guides to birding in Southern Africa. Of the 850 bird species recorded 31 are endemic to the country.
A wide range of cuisine is on offer and really does cater for all tastes and budgets. There are many fine restaurants, lots of family restaurants and a huge number of fast food outlets. The foods on offer highlight the diversity of people in the country and the external influences from Europe and countries such as India.
There is a wide range of accommodation options available ranging from luxurious hotels to self-catering chalets and bed and breakfast establishments. Camping and caravanning is popular and very affordable. A great way to explore is to hire a motorhome and do a self-drive trip stopping at some of the many caravan parks across the country.
The Cango Caves attract many foreign and local visitors each year. There are two guided tours on offer – the Heritage and Adventure Tours. The Heritage Tour takes you through caverns such as Van Zyl’s Hall, Botha’s Hall, the Rainbow Chamber and others. The longer Adventure Tour, as its name suggests, is for the more adventurous folks and there are restrictions as to who can take it.
White Water Rafting is becoming a popular pastime and there are plenty of opportunities to experience it. Some rivers offer challenging rapids while others are more serene and give you more opportunity to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. A number of tour operators offer tours lasting 1 or more days.
Each year, in winter, there is a migration of sardines along the southern and east coast. The millions of fish provide food in abundance for an array of marine life from sharks to birds. The sardine run generates the biggest excitement along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline where many people follow news reports to find out where the fish are with a view to netting them or just to witness this spectacular event.
Surfing is a popular sport in South Africa and there are plenty of great surfing locations along the extensive coastline. Jeffrey’s Bay is world renowned for its super tubes.
There are two world-class aquariums to visit. Firstly, there is the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town and secondly the amazing uShaka Marine World, in Durban, where the aquariums are housed in a replica of a wrecked ship. uShaka Marine World also includes a number of shops and a water park with slides and pools which are an ideal place to be on the hot Durban days.
If you are into bungee jumping then you have to try the 216 m jump from the Bloukrans Bridge. Another option is to experience the tallest swing in the world at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. There are a number of commercial bungee jump operators around the country offering a variety of jumps.
We love sport in South Africa. It’s as simple as that. We are passionate about football, rugby, cricket and many other sports, so you will always find something happening at a stadium near you.
If you enjoy having a fling at the horse races or a casino then there are a number of options for you. Horse racing tracks tend to be located at the bigger cities and casinos can be found in a few of the cities as well as at some scenic locations around the country.
There are a number of low-cost airlines offering flights to all corners of the country. Getting to South Africa is no problem either as there are over 70 airlines that fly to the country with most landing at either O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town is built around an operating harbour. It has numerous shops and restaurants as well as many other tourist attractions such as boat cruises on a variety of craft. With a backdrop of the city and Table Mountain it is no wonder that it attracts over 23 million visitors a year.
Cycling may have been popular in Europe and other countries for many years but in recent times there has been an explosion of interest here as well. There are many trails where one can go mountain biking. Road cycling is also very popular. There are a number of major cycling events each year with the Cape Town Cycle Tour (formerly known as the Cape Argus) probably being the best known.
The Drakensberg is a range of mountains that stretches for 1,000 km. They run from the Eastern Cape, through KwaZulu-Natal into Mpumalanga. Besides offering some spectacular scenery they are popular for hiking, trout fishing, birding and other recreational pursuits. A number of caves feature San paintings. There are a number of accommodation options available and the Drakensberg offers a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities. The name Drakensberg means Dragon Mountains.
Penguins only live in Antarctica? No way! There are a couple of places that you can view and walk amongst the penguins right here. Boulders Beach, near Cape Town, and Betty’s Bay give you great opportunities to view African Penguins.
There are numerous sites of historical significance such as the battlefields where the English clashed with the Zulus, the Boers fought the Zulus and the Boers fought the English. There are also plenty of places to visit to find out more about the Freedom Struggle that the country has been through in more recent times.
Not quite 7 km off the coast of the Western Cape lies Robben Island which will always be linked to the history of this country and former president Nelson Mandela in particular.
Wine has been grown in this country for over 350 years and the many vineyards produce excellent wines. A popular pastime in the Western Cape is to go on one of the many wine routes which give you the opportunity to sample several wines in beautiful surroundings.
There are whale watching opportunities from land and sea with the town of Hermanus probably being the most well-known. The best whale-watching time is from mid-winter through spring (June to November).
God’s window is a spectacular view site in Mpumalanga. You can stand on the edge of a 700 metre drop and take in the magnificent Blyde River Canyon, the distant Lebombo Mountains and much more.
The Wild Coast is a long stretch of coast line which runs from East London in the south and the KwaZulu-Natal border in the north. It is an area that is well-known for its scenic beauty but also has a rich cultural history.
Although there are a number of botanical gardens to visit, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is the most spectacular. Nestling at the foot of Table Mountain it houses thousands of species of indigenous plants including proteas, cycads and fynbos. It is a must see place when visiting Cape Town.
The Karoo is a semi-desert region stretching for hundreds of kilometres across the western interior of the country. Despite its inhospitable appearance there is a wide variety of animal and plant life to be found along with fascinating scenery.
The West Coast region stretches from Cape Town north to the Namibian border. This is a region of incredible, but sometimes stark, scenery and low population.
There are around 60 crocodile farms, housing around 500 000 crocodiles, in the country. Many of these offer the chance to view these fascinating creatures as well as providing guided tours.
Oudtshoorn is the capital of ostrich farming in the country and, even though the number of farms and birds has dropped over the last 100 years, there are still many places to visit.
Fossils from dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures have been found in many places. The area around Clarens, including the Golden Gate Highland National Park, is a good place to start. The West Coast Fossil Park offers a chance to view more recent fossils from a mere 5 million years ago.
Hot air balloon rides are offered in many locations around the country with rides in the Magaliesberg area being particularly popular. Other places for hot air balloon rides include the Cape where you can float over the winelands, Hazyview, Sabie, KwaZulu-Natal midlands, Oudtshoorn and others.
The two main zoos are the Johannesburg Zoo and the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria. A wide range of animals from around the world are on view at both of these. There are also many other smaller zoos and wildlife sanctuaries scattered around the countries.
I don't think that many people would argue that Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the country. Set on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and at the foot of Table Mountain it has an unsurpassed natural beauty. It is a vibrant city with lots to do and see.
The Oxford Dictionary defines biltong as “lean meat which is salted and dried in strips”. However you describe it, it is great (locally we would say it’s “lekker”). It is a popular snack that is available in virtually all supermarkets, convenience stores and butcheries.
Each year in Spring the Namaqualand area draws huge numbers of visitors to witness the spectacular wild flowers.